Ladyfest Boston (Boston Globe 2.3.12)

Posted on February 7, 2012


With the five organizers behind Boston Ladyfest huddled over a coffee shop table in Union Square, it’s an overlapping mishmash of event-planning shop talk, band appreciation, and chunky-framed glasses adjustments. But the most excited the group gets is watching a wind-up toy alien stomp his way across the table, only to just barely stop in time before tripping off the edge near planner Christa Hartsock.

“Look, he’s self-preserving!’’ she says. He’s then turned around and placed safely in the middle of the table again.

It’s approaching the zero hour for Ladyfest, an all-weekend blowout celebration of DIY rock shows, pot lucks, and creative workshops that have been in the works here since May, and these organizers are hoping their own wind-up monster can avoid the edges just as well.

The financial goal of the event is to raise money for the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, a Cambridge-based volunteer group that helps to pay for abortions, but the hopes are to create a lasting network for creative feminists in Boston and beyond. If the past few months of community-building shows are any indication, they’ve got nothing to worry about.

Ladyfest Boston brings together 25 local and national bands, artists, speakers, and authors for three days of serious appreciation of X chromosomes at the Cambridge YMCA, starting tonight. Collectively managed by Hartsock, Tali Stern, Rachel Rizzo, Christopher Strunk, Terry Cuozzo, and an army of volunteers and open meeting participants, the fest aims big. There’s LA punk legend Alice Bag reading from her book, “Violence Girl.’’ There’s a comics how-to from Boston’s own Liz Prince. And there’s everything from raging punk bands to thorny indie-rock and bubblegum pop – Ampere, Hilly Eye, Girlfriends, Shepherdess. The list goes on and on.

That may be a lot to manage in one weekend, but the bigger project of Ladyfest could already be considered a success. Though there’s a diverse scene of rocking women in town (even if it’s not always at the forefront of every scene), there were some dots they felt needed connecting.

“We just thought there seemed like there was a lack of cohesiveness or a forum for people in this city to get together,’’ says Stern.

Starting back in July at the Plough and Stars, the group began organizing a whirlwind of fund-raising shows; “Ladyfest’’ graced dozens of flyers throughout the fall and almost took on its own social scene, bridging bars, galleries, and DIY spaces.

“People have also had chances to really solidify creative relationships with other people they just kind of barely knew,’’ Stern says. “And that makes for a really strong basis for friendship.’’ Connections were made or strengthened through a network of artists like the Fringe collective, Washington Street Arts Center, Lorem Ipsum Books, and the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

For Stern, the timing couldn’t have been better for an event like this, which follows in the footsteps of Ladyfest-themed events around the world, from Amsterdam to Melbourne, dating back to a 2000 festival in Olympia, Wash.

“We had all been talking about this last year, and when the media flurry came out about all the threats to funding being cut from Planned Parenthood, it was something we all cared about,’’ she says. “It was a very specific moment that made us say, ‘Let’s do this now.’ ’’

“Plus we’re in the middle of this election year full of Republican candidates saying things like, ‘You should make the best out of being raped and impregnated,’’’ Cuozzo adds. “It’s a good time to fight back.’’

After conversation, they decided to give proceeds to the EMA Fund because it’s local, it runs entirely on donations, and seemed like an organization that would be easier to connect with their audiences. But the means of connection remains rooted in the arts.

“I’ve been on tour across the country and have just met so many great female musicians,’’ says Cuozzo. “Why not bring them all together in Boston, because there is sometimes a heavy male thing here.’’

Maybe the best thing to take away from the fest is simply the knowledge that people are there for each other, looking for ways to connect.

“I hope it encourages people that show up,’’ says Rizzo. “If you want to have a fest or book a show or start a label – just go for it and you’ve got support.’’

Original article at the Boston Globe here.